Considering Locum Tenens? Freedom, Good Pay, and Some Risks

Neil Chesanow


March 08, 2017

In This Article

Becoming a Locum Tenens Abroad

Several firms specialize in placing locum tenens doctors in assignments outside the United States. For example, Global Medical Staffing, a locum firm based in Salt Lake City, has placed American doctors in temporary positions in Australia, New Zealand, islands in the South Pacific, locations in Asia, Caribbean islands, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada, among others.

"For a lot of physicians we work with, it's a lifelong dream to experience the way medicine is practiced in another country, immerse themselves in the local culture, and really get to know the communities," says Adriann Mathis, vice president of operations. "It's a different pace of life." Australia and New Zealand are especially popular. "Both are smaller countries in population," Mathis observes. "They're not training enough physicians. Many of those they train, they're not able to retain."

Doctors are paid in the currency of the country they are working in. Primary care physicians on assignment in New Zealand, for example, earn about $500 per day or about $130,000 per year, Mathis says. Specialists are paid about $600 per day. Overseas working doctors typically put in a 40-hour week, affording them plenty of time to experience a destination outside of a hospital or clinic.

"In general, depending on the specialty and the country, the compensation is less than in the United States," Mathis says. Paid expenses—which typically include air travel, lodging, utilities, rental car, auto insurance, malpractice insurance (either occurrence or claims-made with tail coverage), and cell phone—close some of the gap. Health insurance, food, and gas for the rental car are typically out-of-pocket expenses.

Locum firms with overseas clients handle all of the logistics to get doctors in-country and working. "A physician with an MD or DO degree and an active US state license can get licensed in pretty much all of the countries we work in," Mathis explains. However, the time it takes to obtain a medical license and work visa varies from country to country, she adds. In New Zealand, for example, it can take about 3 months; in Australia, it can take 6-9 months. In the interim, a firm such as Global, which places locum doctors in domestic assignments as well, can find temporary work for them in the United States, so they aren't left in limbo.


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